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April 15, 2015

This is Why We Call it Practice.

aj trikonasana

Over the past two years, yoga’s place in my life has changed at least a hundred times.

I believe that’s truly its purpose.

The 5,000 year old tradition of yoga has evolved and adapted to fit into mainstream cultural trends and celebrity fitness fads. Thus, it should be just as amenable to those that embrace it as a daily practice.

Within the practice, whether it is with asana or philosophy, there is a unique interpretation and individualized expression of yoga. Yoga gives us permission to transform, in harmony, with the practice. If we integrate the teachings of yoga in to our daily lives, it illuminates our true colors which change just as beautifully as the practice.

All we have to do is simply come to the mat.

When I talk to friends about yoga, I almost always classify it with the word “my.” Although this offers some truth to the elitist and protective nature I have about the Ashtanga series, it also expresses how I live my practice: my yoga can be whatever I need it to be, on any given day and any given moment. I can adjust and redesign my practice to lift my mood, open my hips or settle my pain. My yoga willingly adapts to my ever-changing definition of a meaningful and balanced life. That is the beauty of the practice: it is homegrown and authentic to nurture, heal and teach.

All I have to do is simply come to the mat.

Yoga has been an inner journey, a form of therapy, an arm toner, an ego bruiser and a gift that I can share with others. There are times when yoga has been a welcoming reminder to be patient, playful and true. Other times, it has been all about my frustration with Marichyasana C.

Yoga has been superficial, in serving as a justification for my overpriced lululemon leggings and pedicures. It also lies deep within serving as an escape from some of the harder reality days. My yoga has been a reliable supportive friend on days that I wish I could do over again. It has served as a mediator for my ongoing divorce with insecurities and self-doubt. Yoga has been a guiding light, a coat of armor, a vote of confidence and a voice of reason on the wild adventure that I call life.

All I have to do is simply come to the mat.

I can feel my yoga when I am completely present with a patient who is grieving the loss of a loved one. I can see my yoga when my kids throw their dinner on the floor for the dog to enjoy, and I manage to breathe and smile. I can hear my yoga, when I look in the mirror and think for a moment that I could be skinnier or younger, or better in some way, and I walk away as that gentle voice tells me to be free of judgment. This is living my practice. The discovery that the lessons I learn on the mat, inspire my behavior beyond the mat are “living” proof.

I have immersed myself in asana, pranayama, meditation and yoga philosophy with the hopes of discovering yoga. I have been disciplined and studious, inquisitive and mindful on this path towards yoga. The truth however is that you only need to be open and willing to embrace the practice, and in return, it embraces you. The exploration and that patience that we hold in asana at the studio, begins to color our decisions and our relationships beyond the studio doors.

When we honor our desire to be present and self-accepting in our practice, we begin to notice when we return to our hasty and judgmental patterns. As the gifts from all eight limbs of yoga: truth, generosity, contentment, self-study, stillness and peace, take root in our practice, they become embedded in our lives.

Whether it is the physical practice that opens the door for the more spiritual teachings or the enlightenment of the meditative practice that leads to the first down dog, yoga is a practice intended to cultivate change. I believe that there is a reason we call it practice. It implies that there is no desirable end goal (excluding achieving Mari C), just an opportunity for ongoing refinements and loving participation. I know that I am living my practice as yoga’s place in my life continues to change.

As Rolf Gates reminds us, “to realize the beauty of yoga in our lives, we must never forget that the prize is in the process.”

All we have to do is simply come to the mat.

 

 

Relephant: 

Why I Practice.

 

 

Author: Amanda J. Zavodnick

Editor: Renée Picard

Image: via the author 

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Amanda J. Zavodnick